China can help defuse tensions in South Asia: US

Published September 7, 2019
Pentagon official reminds Islamabad that once close relationship with Washington can be rebuilt. — AFP/File
Pentagon official reminds Islamabad that once close relationship with Washington can be rebuilt. — AFP/File

WASHINGTON: A senior US official said on Friday that China can certainly play a constructive role in defusing tensions between India and Pakistan that have been triggered by New Delhi’s recent decision to annex Kashmir.

Speaking at a Defence Day reception at Pakistan embassy, Assistant Secretary of Defence Randall Schriver also said ties between the US and Pakistani armed forces were “one of the strongest pillars of our relationship”.

“We will see if the Chinese will be constructive in this area. They certainly can choose to be, given their interest there,” said the US official when asked if China could play a role in preventing yet another war in the Subcontinent.

Mr Schriver, who looks after the Asia-Pacific region for the Pentagon, however, noted that the United States and China were competing for influence in that area. The US has included India in an alliance aimed at controlling China’s growing influence in the Asia-Pacific region, which explains Washington’s growing closeness with New Delhi.

“I think, the Chinese are, in many ways, engaged in competition with the United States and it plays out in a variety of ways, mostly for us, in the Indo-Pacific maritime areas,” said Mr Schriver, adding that sometimes the Chinese “choose to take a competitive stance where visa-a-vis we are.

Pentagon official reminds Islamabad that once close relationship with Washington can be rebuilt

“Our hope is that any differences, political differences, could be worked out through dialogue. We will continue to convey that message to all parties,” said the US defence official while explaining how Washington plans to reduce tensions in South Asia.

Asked if he saw India and Pakistan — which have already fought three wars over Kashmir — going to yet another war over the same issue, Mr Schriver said Washington wanted the situation to “remain peaceful” and all issues be worked out through diplomatic channels. “That’s our hope and expectation that things become peaceful,” he said.

The senior leadership at the White House and the State Department were leading US efforts for maintaining peace in South Asia, he added. “And I think they have conveyed that our hope is that those issues can be worked out between India and Pakistan,” he said.

Responding to a question about Indian atrocities in the occupied Kashmir, Mr Schriver said: “We have certainly expressed our interest in seeing humane treatment of the people there.”

Underlining the US desire to maintain close ties with the Pakistani military, the Pentagon official said: “We certainly want to get back to a place where we have a more normal military relationship and a close partnership.”

Mr Schriver explained that the US also conveyed to Pakistani authorities that the once close relationship could be rebuilt. “I think we have been clear in our diplomatic channels on some of the progress we need to see in order to reinstate things. So, hopefully we are on that path and we will see how things go,” he said.

Earlier at the reception, US and Pakistani officials noted the bravery and sacrifices of the armed forces many of whom have paid the ultimate sacrifices in defending the country over the last seven decades including in the war on terror.

This year the Defence Day was also observed along with the ‘Kashmir Solidarity Day’ to express support for the Kashmiris who are suffering under India’s repressive lockdown that began on Aug 5.

“Throughout our history, Pakistan has confronted and overcome external aggression as well as terrorism and extremism,” said Ambassador Asad Majeed Khan while remembering the sacrifices of the Pakistani nation and its armed forces.

“This has only been possible because of the sacrifices made by the armed forces and law enforcement agencies of Pakistan. The entire nation owes them a debt of gratitude,” he said.

Addressing the audience, including defence officials from more than a dozen countries, Ambassador Khan said millions of Kashmiris had been imprisoned in their homes and cut off from rest of the world for more than a month. “While India continues to target civilians across the Line of Control, we have acted with great restraint and responsibility. However, there should be no doubt Pakistan and its armed forces stand ready to give a befitting response and defend the homeland if anyone dares to breach our sovereignty or territorial integrity,” he warned.

Pakistan’s Defence Attaché Brig Kamal Anwar Chaudhry said Pakistan had defeated terrorism at a great cost, including the loss of more than 82,000 human lives, as “Pakistan remains committed to peace in the region and beyond.” He said the armed forces stood with the Kashmiris in their struggle for right of self-determination.

Mr Schriver, the chief guest at the reception, noted that Pakistan had made a significant contribution in the war on terror. He also noted that Prime Minister Imran Khan’s July visit to Washington had created a good environment and this was the time to capitalise upon the “good spirit”.

Published in Dawn, September 7th, 2019


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